Capitol Access

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Your on-ramp for news and insight from Louisiana's statehouse.

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24 years after the legislature authorized the prescribing of medical marijuana, the House has approved the Senate’s bill to set up a system for filling those prescriptions.

“So that it can finally be dispensed in a safe, secure, and responsible manner,” explained New Orleans Rep. Helena Moreno, who was handling SB 143 on the House floor for Sen. Fred Mills.

As one might expect, there were objections and counter-arguments. Bossier City Rep. Mike Johnson worried about the state’s image, if the bill passed.

The bill that was supposed to save the budget from Governor Bobby Jindal’s veto pen sank in House committee Wednesday.

Jack Donahue’s SB 284, known as the SAVE bill, would have created a fee on college students. Students wouldn’t actually pay it; instead, just by registering for classes, they would assign the tax credit for that “fee” over to higher education’s Board of Regents.

“This, to me, just seems like it’s a gimmick,” Gonzales Rep. Eddie Lambert said of the scheme. “Why are we doing this?”

Remember that children’s game—Barrel of Monkeys? The House appears to be playing it, as they link tax bills together by amendments, trying to preserve some control over the budget.

It starts with Senator Bob Adley’s SB 93, which cancels the $25 education credit parents can claim on income tax returns, if they also take the income deduction for paying private school tuition.

“All it does is stop a double-dip on the private side,” Adley says.

And it would save the state $2.3 million a year. Simple idea, until House Ways and Means amended SB 93, tying its approval to the passage of two other bills.

State Treasurer John Kennedy says when it comes to fixing the state budget, the legislature is doing it all wrong.

“Your goal ought not to be, ‘We need to get some more cash in this place.’ Your goal really ought to be, ‘Let’s make a tax system that looks like somebody designed it on purpose’,” Kennedy told the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday.

Lawmakers have advanced bills for temporary fixes, like suspending sales tax holidays, limiting film tax credits, and taking 20% off the top of the refundable business inventory tax credit. Kennedy said he’s disturbed by the lack of an organized plan to actually cure the state’s fiscal problems long-term.

A bill that would require the House Ways and Means and Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs committees to get together and find fixes for the state’s tax credit system advanced Thursday.

“They will take the first bite at the apple and come out with a recommendation as to whether or not we will continue those tax credits, revise them, sunset or repeal them,” explained the bill’s author, Rep. Roy Burrell of Shreveport. “That’s a determination that will actually be made, and will be brought back to this body.”

 

A bill to increase a tax credit program by $47-million dollars found favor with the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday. Speaker Pro Tem Walt Leger’s HB 70 would double Louisiana’s current Earned Income Tax Credit.

“This allows about 30-percent of the state of Louisiana to keep more of their earned money,” Leger told the committee.

There were the kind of arguments for the bill that you’d expect.

“I see this bill as a response to consistent criticism that I hear – in this building and in the community at large – about people ‘getting something for nothing’,” Leger explained. “This program is one that rewards people for working.”

Louisiana’s Senate worked Monday, forgoing the holiday barbeque. The Senate Finance Committee did do some grilling however, as Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols gave them a rundown of HB 1, as approved by the House.

“They did include $31.1 million for LSU Medical School in Shreveport,” Nichols said of the House “priority list” – a wish list if more revenue is found.

We Remember

May 25, 2015

Louisiana remembers, and honors service members who have made the ultimate sacrifice on this Memorial Day.

The state’s full House of Representatives, with help from the Marine Corps Band, held a “Ceremony of Remembrance” before breaking for the long holiday weekend.

New Orleans Rep. Nick LoRusso, who also serves as a Lt. Col. with the Army’s Judge Advocate General Office, served as host, “To honor all of our fallen dead.”

Sue Lincoln

When the Revenue Estimating Conference met last Thursday, they only found an additional $79-million to help with the FY 2016 budget shortfall.

“We still have a long way to go,” House Speaker Chuck Kleckley declared.

Senate President John Alario was marginally more optimistic.

“We’re getting closer, but we’ve still got a long way to go,” was Alario’s pronouncement.

With 24 days left in the session, I asked Kleckley and Alario to gaze into the crystal ball and make a few predictions about the budget.

“I think we can probably answer that better after we get it off the House floor,” Kleckley said, referring to the budget bill — HB 1, which will be debated by the full House on Thursday.

House Votes to Ban Sex-Selective Abortion

May 15, 2015

A bill prohibiting abortions based on the baby's sex was approved by Louisiana's full House Thursday. The bill's author, Houma Rep. Lenar Whitney explained why she brought the bill.

"The practice of sex-selection abortion has made its way from the Asian nations to inside our borders here in the United States," Whitney said.

Whitney said those cultures prefer boys over girls, and this is about protecting mothers and their potential daughters. "In high Asian immigrant populations, many of these women were coerced into abortions and threatened by divorce and violence if they did not bear sons."

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